James Hector

Nathan, Simon

  16 Reviews

From a dolphin and a whale, to a bird and a snail, and a location or two, James Hector's name is remembered throughout New Zealand, but his legacy is even more significant. Born in Scotland in 1834, he arrived in New Zealand in 1862 via Canada and the Australian goldfields, commissioned for starters to undertake a geological survey of Otago. Many achievements followed that we still benefit from today, including: establishing the Colonial Museum and the first national earthquake recording system, undertaking large public works and standardising New Zealand time.

Reflecting comprehensive research and with its lively writing style, this is a fascinating account of an energetic colonial 'explorer, scientist and leader' responsible for laying the groundwork for organised science in New Zealand. [Larger font]



Everyone found something of interest in the book, and often a connection to an area/time or person that Hector had visited or studied. Only half the group finished the entire book.
Yet another 'lockdown' book so comments received by email. Many in the group found the book much more interesting and enjoyable than they expected. Some comments... Very important from a history perspective, text book style and and didn't always fully engage the reader, last two chapters were tedious and too long, the notes were excellent and complemented the book.
CHCH 449
Much data, many facts so we read and shared one chapter each (except one who read entire book). Her review:"Excellent reading as I enjoy NZ natural history and geology. Hector's life shows the courage and fortitude of early explorers and how NZ was an important colony providing resources back 'home'. History shapes the future and NZ has a lot of scientific advances that were initially initiated by Hector."
This book is a credit to the author for the interesting way of writing about James Hector and the valuable part he played in NZ's early history. An enjoyable read, 'opening our eyes into a different part of NZ's history'. James Hector was a remarkably intelligent man with huge energy and stamina, all his achievements live on today thanks to Simon Nathan.
This book was very much appreciated , and we thank the author for writing this book, and the notes! None of us knew much about James Hector but we feel this should be part of the future history of N.Z. He was remarkable, doing so much in so many different fields.
Most of us liked this and found it a well-written book about an interesting scientist. We feel that Hector may not be as well known by the general public as he deserves. The focus on his work life meant that his personal life was missing for us.
The group enjoyed this book for an understanding of the tremendous achievements of Hector and his contribution to NZ. Most did not know of this man. However "worthy", the writing was considered to be factual and an account of historical events, consequently a little 'dry' rather than enjoyable.
WELL 130
We all enjoyed reading about this man, whom we knew only because of Hector's dolphins. Well-written and informative.
We thought this an excellent book, filling us in on the early history and development of our country, and the big part this man played in so many areas of it. So well researched and written by Simon Nathan, and with plenteous illustrations, it informed us and held our interest throughout. Good to have the notes written by him too - there was much to discuss.
WELL 041
We all found this a most interesting biography of James Hector. He was a highly intelligent and a highly motivated man who gave so much to, and did such a lot for New Zealand in the 19th century. Simon Nathan has given us an excellent and well-written book.
AUCK 037
Interesting story of a little known important early figure in our history.
WELL 104
One of our members is a friend of the author. He and his wife came to our meeting and he gave an interesting presentation about his work and the inspiration for the book. He deliberately focused (in the book) on scientific achievements. These were fascinating but some of us felt that a little more focus on the man e.g. by including extracts from letters to his wife, might have improved the book.
CHCH 333
Everyone in the group found this book easy to read, very enjoyable and a great start for learning more about N.Z. history and the 'people' who made it.
We all agreed that we did not know anything about James Hector. We decided that a statue should have been erected and still could be, as he was such a wonderful and tireless worker who has given so much to New Zealand. I am buying some books that the author has written to give to my family. Thank you for having the book in your collection.
An interesting book - one to have on the bookshelf and to delve into. We wondered what these sort of men did today...The 'Luminaries' on TV fits in well with it, time wise and costume wise.
WELL 045
Very interesting book - great to learn about this very clever and capable man; also incredibly interesting historically. Great illustrations. Spoilt by very poor editing! Left us wanting to know more about his wife.